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Monday, June 18, 2012

Heart of Flame by Janine Ashbless

Heart of Flame by Janine Ashbless
Publisher: Samhain Publishing, Ltd.
Genre: Action/Adventure, Historical, Paranormal, Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Full Length (296 pgs)
Other: M/F
Rating: 3.5 stars
Reviewed by Iris

And on the One-Thousand-and-Second night, Scheherazade told this story…

By day, Taqla uses her forbidden sorcery to move freely about the city of Damascus in the guise of an old sage. Her true identity known only by her faithful servant woman, Taqla is content with the comfortable, if restrictive, life that keeps her safe from the control of any man. Until she lays eyes on a handsome merchant-traveler. Suddenly her magical disguise doesn’t rest so easily on her shoulders.

When long-time widower, Rafiq, hears that the Amir’s beautiful daughter has been kidnapped by a scheming djinni—and that she will be given in marriage to her rescuer—he seeks the help of “Umar the Wise” to ensure he will be that man. Yet as he and the disguised Taqla set off, he senses that his prickly male companion is hiding something.

In a moment of dire peril, all of Taqla’s secrets are stripped bare—her fears, her sorcery and, worst of all, her love for Rafiq. Yet the princess’s life hangs in the balance, and there is no running away or turning back. Even though passion may yet betray them all...

I was about to lose my admiration for Scherezade. Then it got interesting.  What started out as a book that I had to force myself to read became the story I couldn’t put down!

While reading the early chapters of this tale, I found it very easy to become confused by the constant introduction of characters and their apparent disassociation from one another. It was a bit frustrating and seemingly pointless. Am I glad that I kept “plugging” away!
This is definitely written as though told in the era of Scherezade. The names and terms and magic were a bit hard to wrap my head around, and made this even more difficult for this reader to immerse herself into the story. Once again, there's good news – context makes the meaning of any unknown words clear to me, and as long as you are not reading it out loud to anyone – pronunciation does not matter!

Due to the nature of the story, and the length of the quest, there are a fair number of characters and “personalities” encountered. I felt that they were each created with love and depth and richness born from intense research, familiarity since childhood, or a very fertile imagination. Perhaps a combination of all three.

The quest ensures constant conflict throughout the book. The conflict between Rafiq and Taqla added several more layers of tension. There are descriptions of consummation of physical relationships, but they are well into the book, and appropriate to their position in the plot. By the time you finish your lengthy escapade into the mind of Ms. Ashbless and the lives of her characters, you will find that her characters, major or minor, “good” or “evil”, all remain with you to some extent.

Whether you enjoy a fantasy novel or a romance, this book has qualities of both. It is not an easy read, but it is certainly an enjoyable one.

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